Getting Past Overpreparation

Here’s a question you probably don’t hear very often as you begin a semester: Are you too prepared for your classes?

But that’s the question professor James Lang of Assumption College asks in his essay “How to Prepare for Class Without Overpreparing,” now up on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. As Lang argues, “the college classroom is a messy place that doesn’t lend itself to inflexible plans,” and so it’s time to “let go of the fantasy that you must use every minute of a strictly planned class schedule to introduce, explain, clarify, and cover.” In the place of this frenetic overpreparation, Lang suggests leaving the coverage for out-of-class work and, in its place, turning to a collection of reliable active learning activities for your classroom. The possibilities he describes range from session-beginning writing exercises to session-ending connection questions.

Some educators refer to this approach as “flipping the classroom”—a topic we cover on our Teaching with Technologies Teaching Commons page. The idea is to have students encounter the content of the class material as homework (in readings, video lectures, etc.), leaving class time for active learning. For its part, active learning is an approach where students don’t just absorb content but wrestle with, question, and apply that content—and it’s another topic we discuss on the Teaching Commons. Actually, you’ll find a lot of relevant resources on our Teaching Commons, including our pages on Planning and Leading Class and Lecturing Effectively. Or check out some of the pages on pedagogical values, like Inclusive Pedagogy, Ignatian Pedagogy, or Teaching Well-Being, because preparation in those approaches leave you ready to handle a dynamic, unpredictable class better than any endlessly-worried lesson plan could.

However prepared you are, remember that we’re always here to help. Feel free to reach out ( with any questions or thoughts!